Wanted penguin briefly sighted

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Hi all!

Not all of you know me, and some may be agnostic with regard to my existence, alizziest even, but I do exist and I’m so sorry I’ve been an absentee landlord for so long!  Life got impossibly difficult, and I’ve been barely keeping my head above water for quite a while!

However, light is definitely visible at the end of the tunnel, and I have good (belated) news which his that Vincent Torley and DNA_jock have kindly agreed to join the admin team at TSZ.  Thanks so much, Vincent and DNA_jock!

And I do hope to join them as a no-longer-sleeping partner before the year is out at least!  Semi-retirement from my full-time job should commence on 1st November, at which point I hope to get my life back!

Felsenstein presents the 37th Fisher Memorial Lecture

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Joe Felsenstein, who posts and comments in The Skeptical Zone, presented the 37th Fisher Memorial Lecture on January 4, 2018. The video recording of his lecture is now available. I’d say that the cover frame, at the very least, was well worth the wait.

Rooting out confusion is much harder than sowing it

Excuse me for attaching to this post a brief rejoinder to a pathetic response to the lecture. Andrew Jones’s “The Law of Zero Magic” appeared in the flagship publication of the intelligent design (ID) movement, Evolution News & Science Today. The title is hugely ironic, inasmuch as the movement conceives of intelligent design as violation of a law of nature, and struggles to devise the law that is violated. Continue reading

Earth is the Center of the Universe?

While researching the evidence for Cosmic Consciousness, the implications of the collapse of wave function, QM and so on, I came across some interesting evidence pointing to the fact that the Earth not only resides in the special place of the universe, it is the center of the universe…The evidence comes from the so-called “Axis of Evil – the earth’s ecliptic and equinoxes, and this represents a very unusual and unexpected special direction in space, a direct challenge to the Copernican Principle, which “appears to give the plane of the Solar System and hence the location of Earth a greater significance than might be expected by chance.”- Wikipedia

 

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The Yanny/Laurel phenomenon

Another case of perceptual ambiguity gone viral, along the lines of the famous blue dress/gold dress phenomenon.

I emphatically hear “Yanny”, but roughly half of the population hears “Laurel”.

The New York Times explains:

The Times traced the clip back to Roland Szabo, an 18-year-old high school student in Lawrenceville, Ga., who posts as RolandCamry on Reddit. He said Wednesday that he was working on a school project and recorded the voice from a vocabulary website playing through the speakers on his computer. People in the room disagreed about what they were hearing. Some other students created an Instagram poll, which was then shared widely on Reddit, Twitter and other sites.

One detail may frustrate some and vindicate others: He found the original clip on the vocabulary.com page for “laurel,” the word for a wreath worn on the head, “usually a symbol of victory.”

The Times also provides a tool that allows you to modify the frequency response, transforming “Yanny” into “Laurel” and back again:

We Made a Tool to Help You Hear Both Laurel and Yanny

A Natural After-Life

As people like to post crackpot theories that are congenial to them, I thought I’d plop this down here.

I was thinking about how dreams can seem (from the point of view of the dreamer) to go on for very long periods of time, even if the dream, from the point of view of an external observer, might only last a couple of minutes. And I noted that it might be the case that as we lose executive function in geezerhood and become more and more a batch of autonomous, unconscious functions, our dream experiences get phenomenologically longer and longer. [If I knew something more about relativity theory maybe I could analogize this with the difference between falling into a black hole from the vantage of an outside observer and the vantage of the falling person, but alas….] Continue reading

If God expects us to pray for others, does that make Him a monster?

Scrolling through some recent comments, my attention was caught by this one, posted by keiths:

Besides not panning out scientifically, intercessory prayer doesn’t even make theological sense.

An old OP on the topic:

The (il)logic of intercessory prayer

So I checked out keiths’s OP, which describes the hypothetical case of a woman named Mary, suffering from a terminal illness, whose friends decide to pray for her. Keiths cuts to the chase:
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2. Cosmic Consciousness-the experimental evidence

This is a follow up to my previous OP  Is Cosmic Consciousness responsible for reality?

There seems to be some confusion regarding the causes of collapse of wave function(which seems to creates reality) whether a conscious observer can collapse the wave function ONLY or can a designed robot/computer perform the same role. Instead of pointing out the facts, I’d like “the seekers of truth” to do it for themselves. Since apparently ‘a picture is worth 1000 words’, I attach 2 videos that cover 2 breakthrough experiments in the understanding of well known double-slit experiment and the implications of collapse of wave function by an observer on the nature of reality…

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Commemorating May 1

Not even in his worst nightmares could Franz Kafka “imagine” such dystopia – he could only bear tearful witness in slack-jawed dumbfoundment!

Check out this link:

https://www.dailywire.com/news/30050/nyt-celebrates-marxs-birthday-op-ed-happy-birthday-ben-shapiro

Carpe diem I shall seize the opportunity to address any and all “USEFUL IDIOTS”, especially those who are even unaware that they are “USEFUL IDIOTS” aka “Cultural Marxists”.

First of all, let us be clear here: Cultural Marxism is NOT just some misappropriated simpleton “snarl word”, to smear the presumed compassionate and well-intentioned high ideals of the Left, dontchya know. (my gorge rises)

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Is Cosmic Consciousness responsible for reality?

According to the most successful theory of physics – quantum mechanics – nothing really happens in the physical world unless a conscious mind observes it.
A reality independent of observation doesn’t exist.

Particles don’t exist (they are waves) unless someone conscious looks at them or takes a measurement of them.

If Cosmic Consciousness is responsible for the nature of reality then all the materialistic theories, like the origins of life, mindless evolution etc. should be scrapped, shouldn’t they? Unless materialistic, unfounded belief system supersedes scientific facts…

The NASA Space Travel Conspiracy

It turns out that NASA’s just another collection of people who believe in the spherical earth because of tradition and education. The Flat Earth Society explains:

he earth is portrayed as round in NASA media because NASA thinks it’s round. They are not running a real space program, so they wouldn’t know what shape the earth truly takes.

That was the purpose of NASA’s creation from the very start: To put ICBMs and other weapons into space (or at least appear to). I suppose that “explains” why launches apparently do occur, while not doing anything like going to the moon.

I thought it was interesting because it seems to fit the trend in conspiracy thought at the present, that the Oppressive Establishment just believes its own claims, and that’s why the brave revolutionaries don’t succeed. That’s typical with ID, ancient aliens “theories,” mythicists, and the various health conspiracy theories, anti-vax and the like. A recent exception seemed to have been the Truther claims, which certainly posited a witting conspiracy, but it seems that projection works just fine for most conspiracy theories.

Anyway, it seemed somewhat interesting, since I’m getting bored with the denialsim of ID/creationism. The flat earthers seem to have the new converts and naive empiricists that ID and creationism largely lacks, so I’m finding them to be kind of interesting. Either way, though, it’s more of a question of why they believe, not what they argue, so the commonalities are interesting. And one commonality running through crank “science” is, of course, the conspiracy theory, which projects all of their own bad faith onto the enemy.

Biological Information

  1. ‘Information’, ‘data’ and ‘media’ are distinct concepts. Media is the mechanical support for data and can be any material including DNA and RNA in biology. Data is the symbols that carry information and are stored and transmitted on the media. ACGT nucleotides forming strands of DNA are biologic data. Information is an entity that answers a question and is represented by data encoded on a particular media. Information is always created by an intelligent agent and used by the same or another intelligent agent. Interpreting the data to extract information requires a deciphering key such as a language. For example, proteins are made of amino acids selected based on a translation table (the deciphering key) from nucleotides.
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Human Evolution debunked

 

  1. What separates humans from other organisms, and by how much? Dexterity (opposable thumb), Lifespan, Sociability, Speech, Bipedalism, Hairlessness, Body Size, and Diet, all separate humans from others, but none is more important and more off the chart than our Intelligence. And from these gifts, humans developed even more abilities; some natural like thick fur on demand, flight, excellent sensors, and powerful actuators; while others completely new like handling fire, writing, and life in the outer space. Continue reading

The Joe G Memorial Math Problem

Regular readers of TSZ will remember the hilarity that ensued when former commenter JoeG grappled unsuccessfully with the cardinality (loosely, the size) of various infinite sets. In honor of that amusing episode, I’m posing a new problem involving an infinite set.

Here’s the problem:

Consider the set containing every real number that can be described using a finite number of English words. For example, “thirty-three” and “two point eight” obviously qualify as members of the set, but also “pi minus six”, “the cube root of e”, and “Zero Mostel’s age in years on July seventh, nineteen sixty-three”, all of which designate specific real numbers. The set is infinite, of course.

Prove that the set of all such numbers takes up exactly zero percent of the real number line.

The Genetic Code: Expected Before it was Found

IDists often act as though there is something surprising about the DNA code. A recent post at UD highlights a letter from Crick containing the line “Now we believe that the D.N.A. is a code.” The typical implication is that somehow it came as a surprise that DNA would involve a code.

But there was nothing new about such an idea. Indeed, what is difficult is to imagine how genetic information could be held without being coded. In 1943, a decade before DNA’s structure was revealed, Erwin Schrodinger explained how a code would work in life, writing:

THE VARIETY OF CONTENTS COMPRESSED IN THE MINIATURE CODE

It has often been asked how this tiny speck of material, nucleus of the fertilized egg, could contain an elaborate code-script involving all the future development of the organism. A well ordered association of atoms, endowed with sufficient resistivity to keep its order permanently, appears to be the only conceivable material structure that offers a variety of possible (‘isomeric’) arrangements, sufficiently large to embody a complicated system of ‘determinations’ within a small spatial boundary

Page 21 of the pdf What is Life?

Indeed, and DNA fits quite well with that description. In addition, the linear nature of the DNA code allows for a straightforward geometry for producing transcripts and eventual translation of DNA information. The fact that Crick underscores “is” before “a code” appears to be nothing but recognition that what had been predicted is what was actually discovered, a genetic code.

Of course Schrodinger, like Crick and Watson, had no doubt that life had evolved. To be sure, this does nothing to demonstrate that DNA did evolve or any such thing, just that while the IDists simply assume that a code must be designed, people who lacked their biases merely considered how a genetic code was functional within life. The DNA code is just something that well fits the requirement for compact information storage and provides for a straightforward output of that information into proteins, RNA, and other needed molecules.

The evolution of the genetic code may well involve certain affinities between RNA and amino acids, and thus may not be entirely arbitrary in its origins, but that is a subject beyond the scope of this short post. The point at present is merely that one should not be hung up on the word “code” as if that means anything about its origins, for the fact is simply that it stores and puts out information in a manner that functions well for life. The term “code” denotes something important about DNA’s function, but not about its origin.

A dubious argument for panpsychism

At Aeon, philosopher Philip Goff argues for panpsychism:

Panpsychism is crazy, but it’s also most probably true

It’s a short essay that only takes a couple of minutes to read.

Goff’s argument is pretty weak, in my opinion, and it boils down to an appeal to Occam’s Razor:

I maintain that there is a powerful simplicity argument in favour of panpsychism…

In fact, the only thing we know about the intrinsic nature of matter is that some of it – the stuff in brains – involves experience… The theoretical imperative to form as simple and unified a view as is consistent with the data leads us quite straightforwardly in the direction of panpsychism.

…the brains of organisms are coloured in with experience. How to colour in the rest? The most elegant, simple, sensible option is to colour in the rest of the world with the same pen.

Panpsychism is crazy. But it is also highly likely to be true.

I think Goff is misapplying Occam’s Razor here, but I’ll save my detailed criticisms for the comment thread.

NAS admits it, evolution was a good joke

NAS president, April Furst, said today that evolution was a very good joke, but it’s gone on long enough. She stated, “It was an incredible setup, over a century and a half of teaching and ‘research’ into evolutionary theory, but we were waiting until people began to catch on to finally admit the joke. But with UD, and stellar minds like Kairosfocus, blowing our cover, we thought it was time to have a good laugh at the idea of Darwinism.”

There were some protests. Gull Able asked, well, what of the tree of life, why do organisms group into clades as they do? April responded, it’s a clear case of design for the sake of our ability to categorize and understand organisms. What order would you expect from the Designer, anyway? Something like the periodic table?”

Charl Atan tweeted April Furst, asking, “So who made the apparent transitionals, like Archaeopteryx and the various hominin fossils like Homo erctus?” Furst responded, “Haven’t you heard of prototypes?” Cen Sor said, “You were paid not to admit this secret. And anyway, why are later organisms made of strangely modified earlier parts and organs, like bat wings made out of mammalian hands?” April Furst was not abashed in the least, saying, “We were always going to admit the evolution hoax someday. And the Designer just happens to be a strong traditionalist, reworking organs incessantly while making little entirely new. The Designer wants kinds to be recognizable, after all.”

So there you have it, the evolutionary hoax is entirely exposed now. Have a good laugh, and get over it.

Powerful Evidence of Natural Selection on Society

As a card carrying Creationist, the video link below is one of the best arguments for the influence of natural selection on society as argued by Professor Walter Block. It also echoes arguments by Jerry Coyne vs. PZ Myers:
When ideology trumps biology

In my earlier post I pointed out the pervasive biological evidence that in both humans and other species, the conditions for sexual selection hold—a greater variance in male than in female reproductive output—probably explaining why men are bigger and stronger than women, and have beards and other secondary sexual differences. It also explains why male peacocks have showy tails, why male sage grouse do “jumping displays” to attract females, why male insects have weapons and ornaments, and so on. (See my bullet-point list of biological facts in that post.) Further, though Bateman’s experiments were flawed, they have been repeated properly in other species and have shown that, yes, males in general have the potential to have many more offspring than females: a higher variance in offspring number). — Jerry Coyne

It explains why matriarchal societies are unlikely, the 4-sigma smartest people will be men, the number of mentally ill and homeless are men, and why heads of countries and corporations will tend to be men and societies that are not patriarchal will not compete as well as societies that are.

It’s also April 1 today.

NOTES:
Prof. Walter Block is a professor of economics. He currently holds the Harold E. Wirth Chair in Economics at the J. A. Butt School of Business at Loyola University New Orleans. He is a senior fellow of the Ludwig von Mises Institute in Auburn, Alabama.

Testing the claim that intentional mutations can be differentiated from nonintentional mutations

fifthmonarchyman has helpfully explained how we can detect intention for specific mutations:

No, I have suggested that humans are hardwired to infer that intentional things are non-random and non-algorithmic.

Therefore directly intentional mutations would be differentiated from those that would be categorized as nonintentional by this property.

Given that statement, I hope that fifthmonarchyman can give a demonstration of how to determine if specific mutations are directed or not.

So, fifthmonarchyman, can you walk us through the process of how you perform that differentiation? Or will you admit that this claim cannot be grounded in reality and that you nor anyone else cannot perform any such differentiation?

I can give some examples of fully sequenced mutations in human populations if that would be useful fifth? Or pick your own, it really does not matter as it’s more about the process then the specific mutation.

 

Feser’s fourth proof and the mystery of existence

If the Aristotelian argument for a purely actual Being (which I critiqued in my previous post) is the backbone of Feser’s five proofs of God’s existence, the Thomistic proof is the beating heart, as it gets to the very core of what God is: Pure Existence itself, according to philosophy Professor Edward Feser. Today, I’m going to argue that this notion of God is utterly nonsensical. But it is not merely the argument’s conclusion which is flawed: the Thomistic proof also rests on shaky foundations, as the real distinction it posits between a finite thing’s essence and its existence is a highly dubious one: the main argument cited in support of it actually points to a matter-form distinction, instead. The second argument for a real distinction between a thing’s essence and its existence establishes nothing of the sort: all it shows is that whatever causes a thing to have existence also causes the nature or essence of that thing. A third argument for the essence-existence distinction illicitly assumes that the term “existence” names a single perfection, which is inherently simple and unlimited.

In addition, Feser’s Thomistic proof trades on an equivocation between the notion of a Being whose essence is identical to its own existence and that of a Being whose essence is Pure Existence – an equivocation which is grounded in the background metaphysical assumption that the concept of “existence” is a simple and unlimited one. In reality, as I shall explain below, the concept of “existence” is neither simple nor complex, neither limited nor unlimited, but rather, indefinite – which is one reason why the attempt to characterize God as Pure Existence, or Being itself, is doomed at the outset. Finally, any attempt to construe God as some sort of activity – whether it be Pure Existence, Pure Actuality, or Thought thinking Itself, or Love loving Himself – is radically mistaken, either because it reifies an abstraction (Existence exists, Actuality acts) or because it generates an infinite regress (Love loves love loves love…). In plain English: We need to think of God first and foremost as a noun, and not merely as a verb – in other words, as an Agent, rather than simply as an unlimited act of thought or love or “be-ing.”

Despite its flawed conception of God, Feser’s Thomistic proof is not without its merits: Continue reading